On one occasion Paul was preaching in Ephesus, a city that worshiped the goddess Diana. The silversmiths in Ephesus had made fortunes selling little replicas of the goddess. But when Paul came on the scene, he preached, “Your god is false. There is only one true God. And His Son lived and died so that those who are dead in sin might live.”
Enraged, the silver merchants realized their livelihood was at stake. So they stirred up a mob to take hold of Paul, determined to kill him (see Acts 19:24-31).
Paul was convinced he was going to die and even at the very brink of death, he confessed, “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so much that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8, my italics). He added by way of explanation, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (1:9, my italics).
Tell me, have you ever been way down as Paul was, far beyond your power? Have you ever been past all remaining strength, down so deep you despaired even of life? When Paul said, “I despair of life,” he was saying he faced a death sentence: “We had the sentence of death in ourselves.”
But God came on the scene and delivered him. Having experienced a miracle, Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus: “I have been resurrected from the dead. The Lord took me out of the grave. I stared hell in the face, but God resurrected me!”
Paul testified, in essence, “The Lord delivered me from a great death — He keeps delivering me — and He will be faithful to deliver me in the future.”